Fish passage projects support migrating fish, recreational opportunities, and flood prevention
The National Fish Passage Program is funding projects across the U.S. to address outdated or obsolete dams, culverts, levees and other barriers fragmenting our nation’s rivers and streams, restoring access for migrating fish and improving climate resilience.
Rivers are the lifeblood of our planet, providing essential habitat for countless species of plants and animals, as well as recreational opportunities for millions of people. However, many of these rivers are fragmented by dams, culverts, and other barriers, blocking fish migration and putting communities at risk of flooding. The National Fish Passage Program, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), is working to address this issue by restoring rivers, protecting wildlife, and building more resilient communities.
In 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that 22 states would receive $35 million to support 39 projects that will address outdated or obsolete dams, culverts, levees, and other barriers fragmenting our nation's rivers and streams. These projects are part of a five-year commitment to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, healthy rivers and streams, and abundant fisheries. The 2023 projects build on the 40 projects announced last year, showing a continued commitment to improving fish passage and protecting vulnerable species.
Improving fish passage is one of the most effective ways to help conserve vulnerable species while building safer infrastructure for communities and improving climate resilience. The 2023 projects will support conservation efforts for threatened or endangered species, with 23 projects involving Tribal involvement and nine projects that are Tribally-led, where funding is going directly to the awarded Tribes.
One of the projects, the Ela Dam Removal in North Carolina, will reopen nearly 550 miles of habitat to several sensitive and rare aquatic species, including the sicklefin redhorse, a vital food source for Tribal ancestors of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Appalachian elktoe, a federally endangered freshwater mussel. Another project, Restoring Access to Tyonek Creek in Alaska, will complete a 10-year, multiagency effort to remove all barriers in the Tyonek Creek watershed, near the Native village of Tyonek, opening a total of 31 miles for subsistence salmon populations.
Talbot Mills Dam Removal on the Concord River in Massachusetts is another project that will have a significant impact on the environment. This project will be the largest dam removal in the history of the state, reopening 135 stream miles to anadromous species that have not had passage since the 1700s. This will provide a significant boost to these species, improving their ability to migrate, reproduce, and thrive in their natural habitat.
The Maple River Reconnection project in Michigan is another example of how the National Fish Passage Program is supporting the environment and local communities. This project will protect surrounding agricultural land from flooding events and support the cultural restoration and expansion of indigenous Manoomin (wild rice) crop, which is important to the Little River Band of Ottawa Indian Tribe.
These projects demonstrate the vital role that the National Fish Passage Program plays in protecting our natural resources, supporting local communities, and building more resilient infrastructure. By investing in fish passage and restoring rivers, we can create a more sustainable future for generations to come. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, healthy rivers and streams, and abundant fisheries. It's up to all of us to work together to protect our environment and build a more sustainable world.